Atlantic City's historic Boardwalk Hall hosts Cirque du Soleil's 'Alegria' Now to April 10.
OUT GOES THE DIRT, CLAY AND animal manure and in comes the giant trampoline. Has Boardwalk Hall ever had a more stunning turnaround than hosting a rodeo one weekend and a Cirque du Soleil extravaganza the following weekend? I think not.
There have been numerous shows with the “cirque” moniker that have played in Atlantic City over the past decade, but the original concept, the well from which all other shows have drawn their inspiration, is Cirque du Soleil. If we were talking in baseball terms, Cirque du Soleil is the major leagues and the rest are minor league affiliates.
Las Vegas has been the primary showcase of the Cirque du Soleil universe. There are currently six shows in residence: KÀ, Love (the Beatles tribute), Mystere, O (the show with water), Viva Elvis and Zumanity.
Back in 2006, Atlantic City had its first taste of the big leagues of European circus featuring over-the-top theatricality with Cirque du Soleil’s Delirum. Now the city will be enchanted by the current CdS touring show Alegría.
The name means jubilation in Spanish and the concept features the battle between the elders, the establishment in power (represented by the characters the Old Birds), and the youthful generation, represented by the spectacular athletes. Of course there are also clowns, who are the Greek chorus, commenting on the action, as well as singers who serve as alter egos of each other, six musicians and a several other intriguing characters.
As in most Cirque du Soleil shows, the premise is more like a setting from which springs forth the most thrilling part of the event, the amazing athletes — the aerialists, contortionists, the balance artist, dancers and in this particular show, the jaw-dropping fire-knife dance. Alegría has been around since 1994. It was presented under a big top show until 2009 when it was converted into an arena show.
A Cirque du Soleil show is not easy to describe to someone who has never seen one before. I’ll leave that duty to Sherry-Lynne Valensky, the assistant artistic director of Alegría, who has been with CdS since 2005.
In a phone interview from a rehearsal, she explains that, “We are very unique in the entertainment we provide. The shows are really indescribable in that there is no real concrete story. When you come to a Cirque du Soleil show, be prepared to see things you’ve never seen before. The ‘wow’ factor is extremely high and Alegría has some amazing artists. The focus for us is on what the human body can do. It’s not about technology, its not about video, it’s literally about the tumblers, the contortionists, the high bar guys, our flying man and all the bizarre and interesting characters. It is about taking traditional gymnastics and athletes and acrobats and creating these unique acts that you see on-stage.”
In order to present the polished finished product, the Cirque du Soleil often begins with the raw material — athletics that know little about showmanship. Says Valensky, “We take athletes and acrobats and people who are used to sports competition and dance competitions and we have to educate them on how to relate to an audience. We’re taking all these athletes who [are used to individual accomplishments] and telling them, ‘Now you are going to work as a group. You guys are going to work within the group and feed off each other.’ It is a huge part of my job and one of my favorite parts, to take an athlete and show him this whole other world of performance, where you engage the audience and you feed off that.”
Valensky is a native of Toronto and gushes, “I’ve never been to Atlantic City and I’m so looking forward to it. You have a boardwalk and are on the ocean and that is the coolest thing ever.”
Alegría does a different arena every week so the logistics of packing up and moving from city to city must be complicated. “Our motto is ‘let’s adapt,’” says Valensky. “We also check out our venues before we arrive. Our technical team is amazing. We have 18 trucks and we have a very specific way that our set goes together. It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle and it goes together in about eight hours.”
The Acts of ‘Alegria’:
• Aerial High Bar: Three high bars set more than 40 feet above the stage form the aerial playground for daring acrobats to fly to and from the arms of mighty catchers, suspended by their knees on a cradle swing.
• Contortion: These young but veteran performers bring the refined Mongolian art of contortion to life. While perched on a rotating table, they execute both impressive and imaginative feats of flexibility and balance.
• Fire-Knife Dance: Tribal and magical, this authentic ritual dance is performed with the pulsing rhythm of conga drums by artists weaving their baton-like fire knives around their entire body.
• Flying Man: Combining the elasticity of the bungee with the power of the gymnastic rings, the artist soars through the air while performing acrobatic feats.
• Hand Balancing: Displaying impressive control, the artist balances on canes of various heights, the performer slowly executing a series of astounding feats of balance and flexibility.
• Manipulation: This act combines rhythmic gymnastics, flexible contortion, deft juggling and graceful ballet into one performance.
• Power Track: The performers soar in the air executing gymnastic and tumbling displays in unison and in counterpoint, reaching astounding heights and speeds on an elongated overlapping trampoline that magically appears from within the stage.
• Russian Bars: Amazing acrobatic flyers are thrust into the air from a single, double or triple bar that is perched on the shoulders of powerful catchers. The sure-footed flyers perform multiple synchronized somersaults and mid-air twists. Each flexible bar measures two to six inches in width.
• Synchronized Trapeze: Youthful and free, the acrobatic duo performs spins and breathtaking maneuvers in perfect sync. On the trapeze, these two artists become one; together they defy gravity. — LH
Cirque du Soleil: ‘Alegría’
Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
When: Thurs., April 7, 7:30pm; Friday, April 8, 3:30 & 7:30pm; Saturday, April 9, 3:30 & 7:30pm; Sunday, April 10, 1 & 5pm.
How Much: Tickets range from $28-$79.
One of the longest-running productions in the international cache of shows known as Cirque du Soleil — character-driven shows blending circus styles from around the world into a central theme or storyline — is making its first-ever appearance in Atlantic City through Sept. 2.
What does 'Alegria' mean? You stop wondering after the show is five minutes in. It doesn't matter what it means you realize. Just trust the show and lose yourself in its dream.
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It has been several years since Boardwalk Hall hosted a production by Cirque du Soleil. The critically acclaimed Cirque du Soleil production Alegría will arrive at Boardwalk Hall from April 6-10 for eight performances. Advance discounted tickets for Alegría are available now online exclusively to Cirque Club members through Dec. 5. Cirque Club membership is free and benefits include access to advance tickets, special offers and exclusive behind the scenes information. To join, go to the Cirque Web site. Tickets for the general public will be available starting Dec. 6 at the Cirque Web site, all Ticketmaster outlets or by calling Ticketmaster, 1-800-736-1420. Alegría has entertained more than 10 million people worldwide since its world premiere in Montreal in 1994. In May 2009. Tickets range for adults $35 to $110; children (12 & under) from $28 to $90; military, seniors and students from $30.10 to $100. Through Dec. 5 only, special discounts on tickets are available online to Cirque Club members. The show will be presented on Wednesday, April 6 at 7:30pm; Thursday, April 7 at 7:30pm; Friday, April 8 at 3:30pm and 7:30pm; Saturday, April 9 at 3:30pm and 7:30pm and Sunday, April 10 at 1pm and 5pm....
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